Coming up in June, an all-new comic series from Dynamite Entertainment will introduce us to the teen-detective Nancy Drew in all new ways. Written by Kelly Thompson (Hawkeye, Star Wars, Rogue & Gambit, Jem & The Holograms)and illustrated by Jenn St. Onge (Giant Days, The Misfits), with colors by Triona Farrell, the series will feature the 17-year-old crime solver as she journeys back to her home town and faces an intricate mystery–her own plotted demise.
Navigating teen life is hard enough without being a super-smart type-A person who doesn’t cut themselves any slack, and Kelly Thompson is here with us today to answer: Just who is Nancy Drew?
[Cover for Nancy Drew #1 by Tula Lotay]
Hannah Means-Shannon: To speak generally, what’s your impression of Nancy Drew as an icon vs. the young woman we meet in the novels? Sometimes those two characters seem similar, sometimes at odds in my experience. Though maybe that’s because we can read a book as a young person, remember it a certain way, and then be surprised to find it seems different when we revisit it as adults.
Kelly Thompson: Yeah, I think a character’s status as an icon is a thing that envelops them from the outside – to us Nancy is an icon because of everything she represents – but “icon” isn’t a character trait she possesses as far as I’m concerned. She’s smart and determined for sure – to an almost compulsive degree, she has classic elements of “never give up” as well as a heroic streak a mile wide, but she’s also flawed (see: compulsive!) she’s got trouble letting go of things and also dealing with her own emotions and traumas – feeling like she’s “got everything under control” – but nobody can run away from that stuff forever. They eventually pile up until they boil over. These vulnerabilities are not the kind of things we associate with being “iconic” but they’re definitely the things that we associate with a character we can relate to – a character that we can love and that can inspire us.
HMS: Related to this subject, what about Nancy do you find you most want to bring forward from the books, and what have you found most in need of updating to make a good, modern tale?
KT: I think all the bones of Nancy are solid – even given the time period, she’s a hero in her own right, she saves her own day – it’s part of what makes her so unique among female characters and part of what cemented her iconic status. But there are obviously elements of her stories that sometimes feel dated, as expected given the time periods. So the trick, to me, is just keeping everything you can – the things that are core and timeless to Nancy Drew and just bringing them forward into a modern context.
HMS: How much do you think the noir and detective tradition played into the original novels, and to what extent did you draw on a fictional or comic noir tradition yourself while working on this new series?
KT: I love noir and neo-noir stuff and detective stories are probably my favorite genre, but I think there are all kinds of detective stories – from classic Nancy Drew adventures, to Scooby Doo adventures, to Dashiell Hammett, and Veronica Mars, and Kate Bishop Hawkeye, and even sci-fi neo noir like Blade Runner – the only constant you need is a detective and a mystery to solve. And that’s great, because it frees those stories up to be whatever you need them to be. They can be driven thematically and emotionally by whatever context you choose, and in our case, can be driven by Nancy herself. Nancy’s world and the mysteries she must solve sort of swirl around her, as if she’s her own detective solving sun – mysteries drawn into her wake – unfortunately for those mysteries, they don’t stand a chance.
HMS: Can you tell us a little bit about creating the world of the story with Jenn St. Onge and what kinds of aesthetics came into play?
KT: Well, Jenn is a fantastic world-builder, so I obviously give suggestions and guidance in the script and we do a fair amount of collaborating as a team, but I leave as much aesthetics to her as I can – she has a wonderful eye for details. We talk a lot about character design and fashion, and we discussed time period a bit with Nancy Drew, [like] did we want it set in the present or the past (we decided the present!), etc.
HMS: Descriptions of the new series hint that Nancy is really rather “type A”, someone who is used to feeling like an over-achiever with things under “control”. Do you think that’s something she’s become due to challenges in her life, or more just a personality trait? How will that collide with elements in her hometown?
KT: I think Nancy’s “Type A” personality is a little bit of nurture and a little bit of nature. Some of who she is would have been there no matter what. She has a deep sense of adventure and a sharp and inquisitive mind that is forever searching. She feels a need to solve any puzzle and certainly a striving to be the best. But her experiences have also shaped her, including the death of her mother at a young age. Which, along with her return to her hometown, drives a lot of the emotional elements of our story. Does she fit in here anymore; did she ever? Confronting traumatic events and accepting that in plenty of situations, despite what you might think, you have no control.
HMS: Did you find any particular difficulties in telling a story about a 17 year old who seems, traditionally, to operate on such an adult level, perhaps with an older mental age than her physical one? Or did you find that her teen struggles were just as relevant, regardless of her sense of composure?
KT: I think the juxtaposition between Nancy’s mental age and her actual age is quite wonderful. It’s one of the things that makes her so unique. And while her being so smart and advanced could make her unrelatable, in fact it’s those things that make her seem – if only to herself – like a forever outsider – which gives her insecurities that make her relatable. It all comes around!
Big thanks to Kelly Thompson for joining us to chat about Nancy Drew!
Nancy Drew #1 arrives in shops on June 13th, 2018.
[Cover for Nancy Drew #2 by Babs Tarr]